AFP Board of Directors Spotlight: Monica Grant, CFRE
To help you get to know the members who will be representing you on the 2024 AFP Board of Directors, we asked our 5 new members to share with us background on their career paths, their advice for the profession, and their goals for their time on the board.
In this Member Spotlight, we interviewed Monica Grant, CFRE, the chief resource development officer for the Channel Islands YMCA, which includes eight Y branches from Camarillo to San Luis Obispo, CA. She has over thirty years of experience as a nonprofit and development professional and over twenty years of management experience with the YMCA.
Q: How did you start your career in the fundraising profession and what led you there?
A: I started in nonprofit work as a program and camp director for the YMCA in the San Francisco (East Bay) Area. The Y is an organization that exposes and engages a wide range of staff and volunteers to their fundraising program. I was one of those “odd” people who really loved doing that, especially making calls during phone nights for our campaign. At some point, I got burnt out on the job rigors and schedule of being a program director, so I decided to pursue fundraising more professionally. At the time, the Y didn’t have many development positions open, so I pursued my fundraising career through some other organizations and eventually came back to the Y.
Q: When and why did you decide to become an AFP member and how did you become a volunteer?
A: I became active in AFP as a member when I lived and worked in Honolulu, HI. There was an active chapter for the entire state. I started by leading some chapter trainings and then got recruited for the board.
Q: What is one skill you think is invaluable as a fundraising leader?
A: Perseverance! The reality is that if you are the lead fundraiser in an organization, you are not only building loyal relationships for the organization, but you are also (usually) required to be a change agent in shifting practices and organizational cultures. All aspects of the job require a long view and willingness to stay the course.
Q: What is your favorite word? (only one word) How has this word influenced or inspired your career?
A: “ENERGY”. There is nothing passive about nonprofit work or nonprofit fundraising. Physics applies to an organization’s ability to engage and motivate others internally and externally. Creating and leveraging energy for your work is critical – in my experience, people respond to leaders who create an energetic spark and take actions that inspire and motivate others.
Q: What professional accomplishment are you most proud of?
A: I was a fundraising CEO for the YMCA in my local county in San Luis Obispo, CA for nine years. While it was challenging work, it was incredibly fulfilling to get to be the boss who understood and practiced philanthropy freely in an organization. We were able to build a fundraising program, shift our organizational culture and grow a strong fundraising board. The impact was great community engagement, a strong case, and a fiscally strong organization.
Q: In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge facing the nonprofit fundraising profession today?
A: I think the biggest challenge today is similar to what it has always been – a landscape that is continually changing and evolving, vs our (and nonprofit leaders’) ability to see and adapt to those changes. One (big) example is a level of denial regarding the changing demographics in most communities and the need to shift our approaches to include and engage a broader range of supporters.
Q: What is one goal you have for your time on the AFP board?
A: I think there is much for me to learn and absorb before zeroing on one particular goal, but areas that I am passionate about and feel I may be helpful in supporting AFP are around helping local chapters feel more connected to AFP Global, helping promote strategies to engage and support new/emerging (diverse) fundraisers and donor relations staff, and training curriculum.
Q: What advice do you have for other fundraising professionals, or people interested in getting into the field?
A: Leverage your strengths and natural talents and partner with others to support the areas that you don’t excel. Work smart, not just hard. Be hungry – for knowledge, advice, different approaches…
Monica Grant, CFRE, is the Chief Resource Development Officer for the Channel Islands YMCA association, which includes eight Y branches from Camarillo to San Luis Obispo. She is the former CEO of the San Luis Obispo County YMCA (2013- 2022). Monica has over twenty years of management experience with the YMCA, including the YMCA of Honolulu, where she served as Vice President for the island-wide association. She has over thirty years of experience as a nonprofit and development professional, including work with UC Santa Cruz, The Nature Conservancy, United Way, and Sierra Club. She has a BS in Recreation Administration, an MS in Organizational Leadership, a Certificate in Organizational Development Consulting, and a Certificate in DEI. Monica has served on the boards of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, SLO County as Past President, the San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce and Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center. She has presented at AFP ICON and national YMCA conferences. She lives in Arroyo Grande with her wife, Colleen Murphy and son, Angelo.